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Carolina Hurricanes finally win one. Cause for celebration?

They hadn't had a victory in more than five weeks. 'There were five or six we should have won but didn't get a break,' GM Jim Rutherford says. 'But that's behind us now.'

November 16, 2009|Helene Elliott

So, Jim Rutherford, your hockey team won Sunday for the first time since Oct. 9, ending a 0-10-4 streak with a shootout victory over the Minnesota Wild.

Congratulations!

"I don't see this as a team to congratulate us," the Carolina Hurricanes' general manager said Monday, his tone a mixture of amusement and exasperation.

"I had a few people call me last night and offer congratulations, and I didn't know what to say, really."

The Hurricanes' streak tied a franchise record set in 1992, when they were the Hartford Whalers, and it was baffling.

This is a tremendously talented team and not much different from the squad that made a strong second-half push to earn the sixth playoff seed last season. The Hurricanes then upset the New Jersey Devils and top-seeded Boston Bruins before losing to eventual Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals.

"It's almost like we do things in extremes," Rutherford said. "As well as things went last year, they were going badly this year."

The Hurricanes had to start the season without injured defenseman Joni Pitkanen, and soon after that they lost forward Erik Cole. "It seemed like every game there was a minimum of two key players out of the lineup," Rutherford said.

Losing Eric Staal to an upper-body injury early this month and then seeing goaltender Cam Ward fall victim to a freaky and horrific deep skate cut in his thigh fueled the downward spiral.

"We probably played four real bad games," Rutherford said of the streak. "There were five or six we should have won but didn't get a break.

"But that's behind us now, and we're looking forward."

They're looking at a tough climb to get back into the east pack. Before Monday's games they were 11 points out of eighth -- a substantial gap, especially with Ward still out a few more weeks, but it's not impossible to erase.

"It's not like we're 20 points behind," Rutherford said. "But with the parity in the league and no easy games it's going to take a lot of effort."

And just to prove the Hurricanes haven't completely stopped losing, they lost Pitkanen and Scott Walker to injuries in the victory over Minnesota. Neither will play Tuesday at Montreal, while Staal might return in time for a trip that will bring the Hurricanes to Anaheim on Nov. 25.

Rutherford also said he's not contemplating a coaching change. He made an interesting move last December by firing Peter Laviolette, who had led the Hurricanes to the Stanley Cup in 2006, and rehired Laviolette's predecessor, Paul Maurice. Maurice and his staff were responsible for igniting last season's revival, and Rutherford hasn't lost confidence in them.

"It's the same staff, and because we've had a bad first 20 games doesn't mean they can't do their jobs anymore," he said.

"If this goes through the whole year, then you've got to sit down and look at things. And if this head coach had been here three years and this was happening, you'd look at it then too. He was here a half-season last year, and things went very well."

Rutherford hasn't lost faith in his team either.

"What we have to try and do is get back to everybody playing the way they're capable of playing and get back to square one between Christmas and New Year's," he said. "We have to get to .500. If we do that, there's a good chance we can be in the top eight. If we can't, we'll have a chance at one of those fine draft picks."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

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